Meet author Vanessa Johnson, a lady who turned her grief into a way to reach out to others who grieve. She took time from her busy schedule to visit Be Encouraged:
Lynn: Can you give us a summary of your publishing credits?
Vanessa: I’ll start with the most recent publications and proceed in chronological order- Gumbo recipe in Gumbo for the Soul, A Recipe for Literacy In The Black Community (iUniverse 2007); A poem in Black Expressions Poetry Anthology (2006); Help, I’ve Turned Into My Mother by ReShonda Tate-Billingsley, Strebor Books (December 2005); Nancy’s Christmas Eve Visitor: An Anthology of Short Stories by the Purple Pen, AuthorHouse (November 2005); My non-fiction book When Death Comes a Knockin’ (LuLu Press 2005); Essays in Celebrations Anthologies by Adass Prendergast Publishers: Letters to My Mother (2005), Notes to My Father (2004); An essay in Divine Appointment: A Caregiver’s Guide by Delores Thornton (iUniverse, May 2004); An essay called Faith in Healing in Living by Faith Anthology, Tina L. Miller (Obadiah Press, July 2004); What Foods Would Have Made You Grow? Down the Cereal Aisle Anthology (Daniel’s House Publications, 2003); Future essays for publication in the Celebrations Anthologies, Adassa Prendergast Publishers- Notes to My Grandmother, Notes to My Son, Notes to My Daughter, Notes to My Cousin. A short story in Living With A Stranger, The Second Chance Anthology.
Vanessa: I wrote When Death Comes a Knockin’ because I wanted to share my experience with others who had lost loved ones and were having a difficult time with the grief process. When I lost my mom and son in August and September 1994 I was sure I was the only one experiencing what I was feeling. I search for books on loss and grief. What I found in my search was that there were many books on the market focusing on loss and grief, but the authors were professional people, psychiatrists, psychologists, theologians, clergymen, but few of them had experienced loss so I couldn’t connect with them. I wanted to read about someone who had lost their mom, lost their child like I had.
Lynn: Losing a loved one is something we all can relate to. What is it you most wanted to say to those grieving?
Vanessa: The journey through grief is a very long and painful process. First and foremost give yourself time to grieve. Coming to terms, accepting that your loved one is gone doesn’t occur overnight. Everyone grieves in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Rely on your faith in God and your family and friends to help you through the process.
Lynn: What are some of the things we can do to start the healing process?
Vanessa: Allow yourself time to experience the stages of the grief process. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like talking, talk. If writing/journaling about what you’re feeling helps, do it. Just don’t let anyone tell you what to feel or do, or when they think you should be “over” the loss of your loved one. Don’t shelter yourself from the rest of the world. As painful as it is, life does go on even without our loved ones. But remember, take one moment at a time. I say moment because that’s how long you’ll have between thoughts of your loved one, and all the woulda, shoulda, coulda questions in your search for why your loved ones are no longer there.
Lynn: What are some reactions or comments you’ve recieved from readers?
Vanessa: I suppose there will always be a need for my book. Although the book has been out since March 2005 I’m still honored when people tell me they’ve read the book and say how much it has helped them through their grief. I’ve had people walk up to me and ask if they could give me a hug, or ask for a hug because they’d experienced loss.
Lynn: What is your next writing project?
Vanessa: I recently completed my first novel titled Sacrifices In The Name of Love. It is a coming of age story about multicultural characters as they discover the true menaing of love and the sacrifices that somtimes must be made under the guise of love. It is being reviewed by a traditional publisher. I’ve started novels number three, tentativley titled Tempted by Love and number four, tentatively titled Black Sheeep of The Family. Mana a full time job, a family and a writing career is very difficult. Sometimes one of those things suffer for lack of time. Thus far it’s been my writing that gets squeezed out. As of June 20, 2007 I’ll be officially retired so I’ll certainly have more time to devote to pursuing my writing career.
Lynn: Do you have any appearances or book signings scheduled?
Vanessa: I’m a participaint in a local fair the weekend of July 7-8 where I’ll be selling copies of my books. I’ll also make an appearance or two at the Essence Festival the weekend of July 4th. I’m also tentatively scheduled to teach some classes for the local Adult Education Program this fall.
Lynn: Thanks so much for dropping by Be Encouraged. You’re an inspiration and role model of courage. Congratulations on your retirement!
Vanessa: Lynn, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to talk about my book. If there’s anything else you need please don’t hesitate to ask.
Love & Peace, VeeJay